How to Get Into Fighting Shape

Man Punching Heavy Bag
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No doubt one of the reasons you train is so that you can project a “don’t mess with me” image to fools who might otherwise try to get in your face. But your muscles fail to intimidate a would-be attacker, you’d better have the power to stop him in his tracks.

We asked three martial-arts training experts to show you how to use your gym time to build devastating fighting power.

Part 1: Knockout punching

“Research has shown that the highest percentage of a boxer’s power comes from pushing off his back leg when he throws a punch,” says Giles Wiley, C.S.C.S., a strength coach and former Tae Kwon Do champion in Atlantic Beach, Fl. That means a strong blow comes from coordinating an explosive extension of the leg, torso, and arm. “The K.O. wall press drills that motion.”

How to do the K.O. wall press

Wedge one end of a barbell into the corner of a room (the edge of a bench can also be used). You may want to wrap the end of the bar in a towel to prevent slipping or damage to the walls. Place a light weight-plate on the other end of the bar, and grab the bar with your right hand near the edge. Get into a fighting stance, left foot forward (or right foot, if you’re a southpaw) and knees bent. Now bend both your knees and transfer your weight onto your back leg, as if you were crouching down before a jump [1].

[2] Explosively straighten your hips and knees and rotate your torso, pressing the bar overhead-you should act as if you’re trying to punch a much larger opponent in the chin

That’s one rep. Immediately return to the starting position and repeat. Perform five sets of 5-6 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Part 2: Takedowns

If the only boxing you’ve done involved a crate of oranges, you may want to look for a takedown in a fight-wrestling an opponent off his feet and onto the floor so he can’t hit you. “Some guys can get to the legs, but they lack the power to pick an opponent up off his feet to finish the takedown,” says Zach Even-Esh, a strength coach to MMA athletes in Edison, NJ. “To improve speed and strength, try the barbell burpee power clean.”

How to do a burpee power clean

Grab a barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Get into pushup position on the floor [1].

Jump your feet forward and plant them about hip-width apart.

Arch your lower back, and explosively stand up and shrug the bar, coming up onto the balls of your feet. As the bar rises to chest level, flip your wrists over so that your palms face the ceiling and your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Allow your knees to bend as you absorb the force of the bar at your shoulders [3].

Reverse the motion to return the bar to the floor, and shoot your legs back to pushup position. That’s one rep. Perform four sets of 3-5 reps, resting 60 seconds between each set.

Part 3: Neck strengthening

“If you have a glass jaw, no amount of training will save you from waking up on the floor,” says Jason Ferruggia, a performance-enhancement coach in Warren, NJ. “But you can improve your ability to take a punch by strengthening your neck.” Perform this neck flexion exercise.

How to practice neck flexion

Grab a light weight plate and wrap it in a towel. Lie back on a bench so that your head hangs off the end. Hold the plate against your forehead [1].

[2] Now flex your neck, raising it as high as you can.

Lower your head to return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Perform two sets of 20 reps, resting 90-120 seconds between sets.

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